Desjardins General Insurance Group has migrated from its mainframes in an effort to speed up online transactions and better attract incoming IT talent.

The Montreal-based property and casualty insurer moved away from the aging technology earlier this year and launched Hewlett-Packard Co.’s line of ProLiant and HP Integrity servers. The upgrade, which comes as part of HP’s Converged Infrastructure service, will enable the insurance company to process more than 1 million customer transactions per day.

Eric Lemieux, senior vice-president of technology at Desjardins’ insurance group, said as the technology behind its database continues to change, staying on the mainframe becoming a difficult proposition.

“It’s been harder and harder to find people working in aging technology like that,” he said. “One guy even postponed his retirement for our migration.”

The switch means DGIG will use HP’s energy-efficient ProLiant DL785 and ProLiant BL280 G6 servers, both of which can help with balanced scaling and processing time speeds. The company will also use HP Integrity servers to run the HP-UX operating environment.

In addition to improving the insurance company’s IT recruiting efforts, Lemieux anticipates the switch will make it a lot easier to link different systems together and create new services for its external commercial line and internal business intelligence efforts.

Lemieux added that the project is also expected to lead to a significant drop in operating costs.

Dave Frederickson, vice-president of enterprise servers, storage and networking at HP Canada, said the majority of customers in large Canadian companies are increasingly finding that siloed, antiquated mainframe systems need to go in order to take advantage of new database tool sets.

“You’ll notice that cost savings wasn’t the main reason for (Desjardins),” he added, emphasizing the fact that the flexibility to launch new apps faster and attract the next generation IT worker.

For other organizations looking to pursue a mainframe migration, Lemieux said bigger releases work better.

At the beginning of the migration, which ended up lasting about four years, the organization was porting over every new release from its mainframe platform to the new server platform. Lemieux said making such incremental changes only slowed the project down, which prompted the insurer to move to a “three times a year” refresh until the organization was ready for the final switch.

DGIG also decided to limit its risk at launch by going live with the new server platform in Ontario initially, and later in Quebec. Lemieux said 65 per cent of its business is in Quebec as opposed to 35 per cent in Ontario.

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